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McKinney Falls: The Ranch Home of Thomas F. McKinney, Pioneer Texas Entrepreneur

Book Cover Image
Margaret Swett Henson (Author)


McKinney Falls State Park, which lies across the Colorado River from Austin, is the 672-acre center of a 40,000-acre tract where Texas pioneer Thomas Freeman McKinney established his ranch. This history tells the fascinating life story of this influential frontiersman and entrepreneur. Born in Kentucky in 1801, McKinney led an adventuresome life on the early Texas frontier. In the 1820s, McKinney claimed a league of land in Stephen F. Austin's fledgling Texas colony. McKinney and his cousin Phil Sublett settled in Nacogdoches. McKinney became a successful trader, eventually moving to the Brazos River valley, a jumping-off point for his pack trains of cotton to Saltillo. Handy with a Kentucky rifle and fluent in Spanish, McKinney traveled in Texas and Mexico and made valuable contacts for the commission business he founded at the mouth of the Brazos in 1834. His firm of McKinney & Williams prospered and helped supply the Texas revolution in 1835-36. In 1837, McKinney and others founded the Galveston City Company. After he moved the McKinney & Williams commission house there, he became one of the wealthiest leaders of the new Republic.

He was a power behind the political scenes, supporting Sam Houston, among others. After statehood, he served in the Texas House of Representatives. A unionist like Houston, McKinney opposed secession, but when Texas left the Union, he reluctantly helped the struggling Confederacy. Confederate mismanagement and corruption ruined McKinney, and he lost his fortune. Until he died at McKinney Falls in 1871, after years of ranching and raising thoroughbred horses, Thomas F. McKinney had lived an eventful and influential life that spanned the entire early history of Texas.